Any person can step up and speak on the topic of his or her choice, as long as they stay within the parameters of propriety. Nearby bobbies mainly keep an ear out for blue language.
February 26, 2009
When is a square more than a square?
When it’s a circle, rhombus, trapezoid, triangle or fan-shaped configuration at the epicenter of European political, cultural and communal life. Some of my favorite squares are rectangles.
The town square is a distinctly European invention, one that has promoted democratic ideals and representational government.
“Whether called agora, forum, piazza, plaza, platz, platea, piata, námesti, rynek, trg or market place, the main square has been a distinguishing characteristic of European cities in one form or another for over two thousand years,” write Suzanne & Henry Lennard in their book, Genius of the European Square.
Among my favorites, I’d have to include the Piazza San Marco, Place de la Palud in Lausanne, and Place de l’Opéra in Montpellier.
Recently, I’ve added the Market Square in Kraków, Poland’s ancient capital, to my list.
Like most great squares, Rynek Glówny, is imbued with history and bordered by impressive architecture.
It’s also home to the requisite flocks of pigeons.
I sit at an outdoor café and order a Charlotteka (apple strüdel) with a Turkish coffee. The buskers, mimes, and unicycle riders animate the crowds. Then, at mid-day, a golden horn appears in the west window below the taller spire of the Basilica of the Virgin Mary. The bugle call, which in the Middle Ages announced the opening and closing of the city gates, ends abruptly mid-phrase in commemoration of a trumpeter who was shot through the throat by a Tatar archer in 1241.
I never cease to marvel at the magic of the European town square and the way it energizes locals and visitors alike.
What’s your favorite town square?